I am in a wonderful and committed relationship with a transgender woman-- a person often characterized as "born in the wrong body," in the process of transitioning from male to female. Before we fell in love, I knew a handful of transgender people and was even quite close with a few of them, but even I was unaware of many of the details of life as a transgender person. Our relationship has been an educational experience for me in every way, and I now find myself frustrated with the abundance of misconceptions about transgender people. My partner and I worked together to compile a list of the facts we wish more people knew about transgenderism. Here are some of them.
1. It's not about being gay.
Being gay and being transgender have absolutely nothing to do with each other. A transgender woman is not the same as a drag queen, and a transgender man is not the same as a butch lesbian. There are transgender people of all orientations. My partner was born male but is now in a lesbian relationship. Two of our friends were both born female, now identify as gay men, and are in relationships with one another. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing.
2. This isn't a fetish.
On the rare occasion when I mention that my partner is a trans woman, one of the most common responses I hear is, "Wow, that's kinky." I feel sad when I hear this. Our relationship isn't a deviant sexual practice based on some mutual perversion. We're two human beings who are in love with one another. While there are people with exploitative fetishes for trans people, most trans relationships are based in love and respect, not sexual experimentation.
3. We're normal people.
My partner and I enjoy video games, board games, movies, literature, and art. We like staying up late with pillow talk and cuddles. We argue about money and house work. We work full-time. To both of us, our four-year-old daughter is the absolute center of the universe. We are, fundamentally, very much the same as any other couple. Most transgender people and their partners live ultimately normal lives, without the freak show and hysteria you might see on talk shows and drama movies.
4. It's not about "the surgery."
If given the option, all trans people would choose a set of genitals that matches how they feel. The problem is that most of them don't have that choice. Sex reassignment surgery is extremely expensive, and, given the rate of side effects, most trans people prefer to opt out of it. My own partner has no intention of ever having SRS; she will likely have male genitals for the rest of her life. The end goal in transitioning isn't to acquire a set of artificial genitals, but to be perceived as the correct gender and to feel comfortable in one's own body. A surgically constructed vagina is at the bottom of the list of traits necessary to be seen as female.
5. We just want to be treated like people.
The media is prone to panic about transgender people. All of us-- no matter our gender identity-- read news items about crazy parents raising kids deprived of any gender identity. We read about trans people in unconventional marriages that make us nervous and worried. We read about young children receiving sex-change treatments. We read about the tragedies of intersex people and trans victims of hate crime. In the midst of this, many people develop a panic that transgender people are taking over or threatening society. In reality, trans people and their partners have the same goals as everyone else. We just want to be happy. We just want to live our lives free of violence, fear, and persecution. That shouldn't be too much for any person to ask.
Related Work by Genevra Reid
"She's my Daddy"-- An Interview with my Daughter